all furniture wax is not created equal (and a giveaway!).

wax-title

Back in the day when I first began painting furniture I was totally uneducated about the products I was using.  I started with latex paint, and then upped my game and began using milk paint and homemade chalk paint, both of which needed a topcoat of wax (or something).  At the time, I assumed all furniture wax was created equal.  I purchased some SC Johnson paste wax at my local hardware store and figured I was good to go.  And I spent a summer using that wax out in my carriage house workshop.  The wax had a nasty chemical smell sort of like paint thinner, but I figured all waxes had that smell.  When I wanted to experiment with an ‘antiquing wax’ I ordered some dark walnut Briwax online and mixed that with my SC Johnson wax.  It definitely did the trick and created the look I wanted, but if anything the Briwax was even stinkier than the SC Johnson.  That only confirmed my misguided notion that all waxes smelled bad.

Fast forward to winter.  Back then I usually took a break from painting furniture in the winter.  But I had an adorable little wash stand that I really wanted to paint.  I figured I could paint it indoors and then wax it on my enclosed front porch.  It was warm enough out there, but even with the door shut between the house and the porch, that stink made its way inside the house and it wasn’t pleasant.

So much for winter painting!

But then I discovered Miss Mustard Seed wax.  Eureka!  It has a scent to it, but it’s very mild, not a harsh chemical smell.  I could wax inside the house all day long and not feel like my house smelled like a workshop.

waxes

However, it definitely costs more than the cheapy stuff.

Since I’m a cheapskate, I was determined to find a cheaper choice.  As a result, I’ve tried many different brands of wax and guess what?  They didn’t really save me any money at all because I’d open up the can and realize I was back at stinky wax.  As it turns out, you get what you pay for.  Sometimes.  But other times even the more expensive ‘name brand’ waxes are just as stinky.

Initially my decision to ‘splurge’ on the Miss Mustard Seed wax was really just based on the lack of smell.  But recently it occurred to me that I do A LOT of painting.  I should really be thinking about what kinds of chemicals I am subjecting myself (not to mention the environment) to on such a frequent basis.  This really is about more than just dealing with an unpleasant odor, what about repeated exposure to unknown chemicals?  Just what exactly is causing that stink?

I tried to do some online research into the ingredients in various brands of wax, and guess what?  For a lot of the brands it’s really hard to find that info.  Apparently back in 2009 Senator Al Franken helped introduce a bill called the 2009 Household Product Labeling Act which would have required paint manufacturers to list all ingredients on their packaging, but it did not pass.  But honestly, even if the ingredients themselves were listed, would you know what they are?  I know I wouldn’t.

So I went straight to my source, Homestead House Paint Co, and asked the simple question “hey, how come your wax doesn’t stink?” and I got a nice email back from Loree Pringle with lots of info about beeswax and carnauba wax, and about how they need a solvent to allow them to be spread into a thin layer.  Then she put me in touch with Roger Clapham, the co-president of the company that manufactures their waxes.  He gave me a bunch of really science-y info about atoms in a chain and whether or not they hold hands (or something like that) that was way over my head.   But basically he explained that there are two kinds of solvents that can be used for this purpose, aromatic hydrocarbons and aliphatic hydrocarbons.  The aromatic hydrocarbons have that chemical smell like paint thinner, and include Toluene or Benzene.  And guess what?  Aromatic hydrocarbons are considered carcinogens.  Yeah, that means they have been shown to cause cancer.  Both the Miss Mustard Seed waxes and the Homestead House waxes contain no aromatic hydrocarbons.  Instead they use aliphatic hydrocarbons.

waxes-2

So I followed up with the next obvious question, why would any wax still contain aromatic hydrocarbons if they are so bad?  According to Roger, the aliphatic hydrocarbons are weaker solvents than aromatic hydrocarbons.  Products made with aromatic hydrocarbons require less of them to do the job and those products can be more durable and provide more shine.  For example, he does not believe the Homestead House wax is durable enough to hold up to foot traffic on my stairs (although I’m going to try it anyway one of these days).

As Roger says himself, he has a healthy respect for aromatic hydrocarbons and their usefulness as long as people understand what they are working with and take precautions.  If you still want to use one of those products, Roger gave me some safety tips:  Buy a mask specifically designed to protect against aromatic solvents (OSHA certified) and wear it while working with them (changing the filters as directed). Toxins can be absorbed through the skin, so wear rubber gloves.  Pay attention to air circulation, apply the finish outdoors or use a fan and open the window.  On the plus side, the danger is gone once the solvent has evaporated.  So a piece of furniture that has this type of wax on it is no longer hazardous at that point, once the smell is gone so is the hazard.

Since we can’t rely on a label to tell us what kind of solvent a wax product uses, I say rely on your nose.  Give your wax the old sniff test.  Does it smell like paint thinner?

If so, ask yourself if this is really something you want to be working with on a regular basis?  And are you using the proper precautions?

As for me, I’m not a fan of gloves and gas masks.  Working outdoors is only an option about six months out of the year here in Minnesota.  So I finally tossed all of those stinky waxes and am going to stick with the non-smelly stuff!

Now for the fun part!  Here is your chance to give the non-smelly stuff a try yourself.  When I told the people at Homestead House that I wanted to post about this subject, they graciously provided me with a truckload of free samples to giveaway.

truckload-of-waxes

I have 8 small jars of wax and I thought I’d give them away in pairs, so 4 lucky winners will each get 2 jars of wax.  I have a variety of different waxes including Miss Mustard Seed White Wax, Antiquing Wax and Furniture Wax, Homestead House Furniture Wax in clear, Espresso and Black, and a couple jars of Salad Bowl Finish.  I will draw 4 names at random from the comments left on this blog post by Sunday, January 29 at midnight (central time), so all you need to do is leave a comment to get your name in the running to win.  Best of luck to you!

Note:  the Safety Data Sheet for SC Johnson paste wax lists Ethylbenzene and Naphthalene as ingredients (both aromatic hydrocarbons).  Briwax contains Toluene, however they do offer a Toluene free version of their product, but I was not using that version.

Also please note that I have not been paid by Homestead House for this post but they have provided me with free samples of their waxes and other products including Fusion paint, Homestead House milk paint and Miss Mustard Seed products.  In addition they provided me with the waxes that I am giving away with this post.

Advertisements

235 thoughts on “all furniture wax is not created equal (and a giveaway!).

  1. Thank you so much for the chance to win. I’ve been trying to find that salad bowl finish ever since your “chippy” post. Love your blog and thanks for sharing all your knowledge!

    Like

    1. I think there is some confusion over that product because the labeling says “Salad Bowl Finish” but the Homestead House website calls it “Beeswax Finish.” You can order it directly from Homestead House here. It’s also the same thing as the Miss Mustard Seed which you can buy online or at a local retailer if they carry it. Or, better yet, maybe you’ll win it from me! I’ll put your name in!

      Like

  2. Great post! I ruined a really neat tool carrier from a friend’s barn! I used the Stinky stuff on it, and I laid it on thick .I thought the more the better! It smelled awful! I did it outside on our screened in porch, and the smell still got to me! It looks awful, cloudy! I got the worse headache from it. I have several small things that need waxed but I have put it off not wanting the smell and the headache! I would love to try another brand! I just got some white Fusion paint to use on a chair, but have not started it yet. I would so love to try a good wax!
    Blessings

    Like

  3. Thank you for the informative post! I have been experimenting a bit with wax, but I’m so intimidated! I don’t want to make a problem worse by applying the wrong kind!

    Like

    1. I’ve often said that I tend to learn by making mistakes. That’s why I try to share info here on the blog so that everybody else can learn from my mistakes too! With wax my advice would be to start with the slightest amount and go from there. I think the biggest mistake you can make with wax is to use too much. If you do that, just go back with a clean cloth and keep wiping with a new clean section to remove excess wax.

      Like

  4. Thank you for the informative post. I just realized that I have been reacting to some paints and wax. I have been getting small blisters around my nose and mouth when I work on furniture in a small space. It’s hard to work outside in Minnesota. I would love to try these samples.

    Like

    1. Oh, that’s a little scary isn’t it? Do you think it’s an allergic reaction of some kind? It seems odd that it would be around your nose and mouth and not on your hands then. Best of luck figuring out what is causing that.

      Like

      1. I’m allergic to everything. Not only do I get migraines, but I also have the same kinds of problems that Tracy has. My mouth (mostly my tongue) will burn like hell and parts of my mouth go numb. And I get a knot in my throat. My hands are fine usually.

        Like

  5. THANK YOU! This ingredient information is good to know. I live in MI and have similar weather limitations.
    I’ve tried MMS wax but not Fusions wax yet, maybe it’s time to.

    Like

  6. Well, I would suggest this wax. I think it’s the best. Very Easy to apply, silky feel, wonderful protection etc etc. I hope you try this. Have a nice evening 🙂

    Like

      1. That looks like an interesting product and one that would be useful if you want something more durable than a wax. A quick google search did not provide any info on the ingredients though and whether or not any of them may be harmful.

        Like

  7. How did you know?!? I mean, really…do you have the painting guru’s version of a nanny-cam in my workspace? I have a dresser I recently painted, just sitting…waiting…dreaming of being put to good use. All she needs is to be waxed and buffed, but the weather and/or life refuses to cooperate. Her “accessories” (transformed original hardware, new vase and picture frames) sit in a box where she is one day destined to proudly stand. Curses upon all stinky, chemically waxes…Curses!!!

    Like

  8. Wow Quandie. Kudos and thanks for all the research you put into this. I am throwing all the stinky stuff away today. My hands are always beat up, especially in the winter so I can only imagine what scary things are soaking in. Good to know which ones are safe!

    Like

    1. I never thought about the idea that our hands could be absorbing things through the skin, and I’m not a fan of wearing gloves even when gardening. I’m with you, toss the stinkies and forget about the gloves 😉

      Like

  9. I have 3 cans of different waxes that I’ve ever tried. I start and then think it will be faster to poly, or I Danish oil it instead. With all your footwork I now must do my own research. Most of my surfaces take a lot of abuse so I resort to the poly even though some kinds change the color. Thank you for your diligence Linda.

    Like

    1. I know there are a lot of poly fans out there. I think in some ways that is a personal preference thing. I just prefer the look and feel of a waxed surface. To me a coat of poly is similar to adding a clear plastic cover to your sofa. Yeah, it’s gonna be protected, but does it look good? I keep hearing that there are some really great ‘flat’ poly products out there though, so one of these days I’m going to have to try one and see what I think.

      Like

  10. This article was exactly what I’ve been looking for thank you so much for the information and the chance to win the awesome wax!

    Like

  11. Thanks for this information, although I live in Florida it is hard to paint and wax furniture in the hot months. So would be nice to have a non stinky wax, now I know. Appreciate your blog and your talent!

    Like

    1. So true. Having lived in Florida myself for a while I well know that you have to paint indoors for heat and humidity reasons as well. Yep, you need a non-stinky wax too!

      Like

  12. Linda, thanks for all the good information. I have used a variety of waxes, but not ‘Johnsons’ – they were all waxes that were manufactured by ‘chalk or milk paint’ companies. I was very low on my current MMS wax and was at a shop that carried Annie Sloan so I picked up a container of clear wax to replenish my stock. Was I surprised to go out and check the label and it said that the wax contains naphtha, with harmful vapors. Hmmm – wish I would have waited to purchase either Homestead or MMS. I’ll save the AS wax for spring/summer when I am outside and keep using a ‘non lethal’ wax when I’m inside. I would also love to try the white and black waxes to see the effect they have. If I don’t win any, they will be on my ‘to purchase’ list!

    Like

    1. My story is similar. I ran out of my MMS wax and the only shop nearby carried Annie Sloan. I really wanted to finish what I was working on that day so I bought it. I was really surprised when I opened that can and it had that odor. Just remember to wear gloves when you use it outside since you can absorb those bad aromatic hydrocarbons through your skin. And mixing the white and black waxes to make a gray gives a really cool effect, I did that on this dresser.

      Like

  13. I am so cheap and it’s really hard to spend that much for wax! But….you make some good points and I despise wearing a mask! I’m in Missouri, so I get 7 months or so of porch painting before I head to my dining room (that’s what they’re for, right?). Thanks for a great giveaway!

    Like

  14. I look forward to your blog every morning. I used to use Annie Sloan waxes but they are so expensive. I have never tried MMS waxes or Homestead House waxes. Would be fun to try them. Thanks for all your useful information.

    Like

    1. I haven’t done a cost comparison, but I think the MMS and Homestead House waxes are in the same ballpark cost-wise as the Annie Sloan. But in the long run, I think the MMS and HH wax is worth the extra cost if it means using less dangerous chemicals. You deserve that extra bit of safety.

      Like

  15. Linda I would love to learn how to paint furniture or other misc items. With winning the wax samples it will push me to learn how. Thank you for all your inspiring posts
    Keep them coming 🙂

    Like

  16. Never tried the “other” waxes but I spent many Saturdays as a child using Johnson’s Paste Wax on the hardwood floors in my bedroom as part of our “cleaning days.” I know that smell and thought it was just part of wood! Thanks for the leg work on this one!

    Like

    1. Oh my gosh Mary. I hadn’t thought about how many people out there regularly use that product on floors. I can picture a poor little Cinderella version of you as a child slaving away with a rag and that smelly stuff! I’m guessing your mother never provided you with a mask and gloves for the job … well, maybe the gloves?

      Like

  17. I tried waxing a painted furniture project indoors in the winter. The gas log fireplace spent the next two days burning off the volatile oils. My family has never let me forget the extreme air pollution they breathed! Never again. I would love to try a safer product.

    Like

    1. I have heard stories on the Annie Sloan forum where people who use their wax and then run their dryer later in the day have problems like that. Their house ends up smelling like lighter fluid.

      Like

      1. I bet that is especially a problem if your workshop is in the basement next to your clothes dryer! Mine would be, except I can’t actually get any furniture down my scary cobbled together stairway into the cellar.

        Like

  18. Hi I love your blog and daily updates, I wish I could visit you and your barn but to far from NE for a Sunday drive. I would love to try any of those waxes, I am always looking for new products to try. Thanks for your daily inspiration. Melissa.

    Like

  19. I have also tried different waxes with not much luck. When I get real lazy I just use spray poly, but we know you can’t do that very easily in MN in the winter time, God knows I’ve tried though!

    Like

  20. Being pretty new to painting furniture I love all your tips and information. Was lucky enough to make it to your sale in the Fall and meet you! Do you have any upcoming classes? I’m right in Oakdale too!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Thank you for the info. I too have tried the cheap way but have been converted. Big difference, certainly worth the investment. Thank you for all your info…you go 👧

    Like

  22. Thanks for the post! I just found your blog today through Lost and Found Decor. I’m always looking for great furniture refinishing ideas since I have a few pieces I’m working on. I have yet to try wax since I’ve only used fusion paint so far, but the heads up is nice. I started using fusion specifically because I could use it indoors and don’t want a bunch of toxic fumes around my toddler.

    Like

  23. Thank you so much for the very informative post.
    I nearly always use Annie Sloan waxes exclusively as I find that they go a long way therefore making the cost worth while.
    My all time favourite wax is MMS white wax. I have had a jar for ages and use it sparingly to highlight details and I have used it with stencils and it works as long as you let it cure it doesn’t rub off.
    I would love to be chosen as a winner but as I live in Australia I guess that is not possible.
    I love reading your Blog…….keep up the good work.

    Like

    1. I’m still putting your name in Jackie. I did a little research and although it’s going to be a little bit expensive shipping to Australia, it’s not totally outrageous. Thanks for following along on my blog all the way from Australia!

      Like

  24. I’ve tried waxing a couple times and have not had good results. I think I apply it too thick. I’d like to experiment more with it. Keeping my fingers crossed! Thanks for the informative post about waxes you’ve used!

    Like

    1. I have been guilty of applying too much wax in the past myself. I find that I am putting less and less on all the time and still getting good results. Keep practicing Sandy!

      Like

  25. I have been using Annie Sloan wax for the past couple of years. It lasts a long time. I have heard good things about Miss Mustard Seeds and Homestead House wax and thought that I would give it a try when finished with my current cans of Annie Sloan. I would love to try it! Thanks for the information🙂

    Like

  26. Hi I would love to try these and be willing to pay you to ship them to me in Sunny SW FL! Thank you so much for all your research & knowledge, You are the BOMB!!!

    Like

  27. Thank you so much for your “research” and this post…Yikes…I have used some “stinky” wax too…So I am happy to have read about this information..Thanks!!
    Linda

    Like

  28. I am always learning about what products to use to create the best results. Thank you for this giveaway. Would love to try the waxes!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s